I’d like to share the good fats list with you today because the type and amount of fat in our diets is something vastly misunderstood in general. It honestly drives us bonkers around here because low-fat food is bullshit. Fat is a complex topic though, and after thinking it all through I sort of want to take a nap. It’s important though so, onward we go!
In 1977 a report called the McGovern Report came out stating that heart disease was directly linked to too much fat in our diets. This “fact” became the driving force behind the first set of U.S. Dietary Guidelines and set the precedent for what a healthy diet should look like for decades to come.
Fast forward 30-something years though, and chronic diseases, like those the Dietary Guidelines had aimed to eradicate, have proliferated. We’re now finally starting to understand that the fat in our diets has very little to do with our weight and that the type of fat is far more important than the amount of fat when it comes to preventing chronic diseases. In fact, we now know that eating a low-fat diet is probably the biggest mistake we can make and people are finally embracing this fact, with the results to prove it.
The key is to understand what good fats are and what bad fats are, and to eat accordingly.
Healthy fat is a crucial part of the optimal human diet. It provides high quality energy, especially in the absence of carbohydrates, and it also improves our absorption of nutrients, regulates our hormones, increases protein utilization and is vital for healthy reproduction.
So let’s discuss the good fats today, shall we?
The Good Fats List
This will be way more fun if you pronounce the good fats as follows: Moo-fa, Poo-fa, SatFat and Cholly, like I do. Plus, I think they’re easier to remember that way. I repeat: Moo-fa, Poo-fa, SatFat and Cholly. These are the healthy fats. But not all of them. It’s a little complicated. Let me explain.
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA aka Moo-Fa)
Ever heard of The Mediterranean Diet? Well, Moo-fas are its all-star. A Moo-fa is liquid at room temperature, like the top of that organic almond butter jar. Moo-fas are why nut butters you have to mix up are healthier for you, albeit a tidbit annoying. We (meaning the world, not Bridget and I) found out in the 1960s that Moo-fas are also the reason Mediterranean people (eating their ancestral diets) have a much lower instance of heart disease than other populations, despite eating a high fat diet.
You can find Moo-fas in:
- Olives & olive oil
- Avocados & avocado oil
- Nuts: Macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, etc.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA aka Poo-fa)
You’ll find Poo-fas mostly in plants and fish. EPA and DHA are popular Poo-fas and Omega-3s, that have also been shown to protect our hearts, which is why you’ll see them in so many supplements. This is one spot where fats can get a little confusing though.
Omega-6 fats are also Poo-fas but should be avoided. The reason they should be avoided is that our modern diets are severely high in them. And though they’re not necessarily unhealthy in and of themselves, the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 in our bodies is delicate and important.
Vegetables oils and other common, unhealthy foods contain a ton of Omega-6 fats, while Omega-3s are much harder to obtain. This throws our body’s delicate ratio of the two radically out of whack, which can greatly increase the risk of heart disease.
Omega-6 Poo-fas should be avoided while Omega-3 Poo-fas should be consumed more, in order to keep that ratio in an ideal state. Processed foods and foods with vegetable oils like Canola are high in Omega-6, which is why they’re so common in the Standard American Diet. Omega-3s are harder to find, like in the following foods, which is why we’re often too low in them.
Healthy Omega-3 Poo-fas include:
- Cod liver oil
- Flax seeds and flax seed oils
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkins seeds
- Sesame seeds
Saturated Fats and Cholesterol (aka SatFats and Cholly)
These are also controversial. Sat-Fats and Cholly are found mostly in animal fats like beef and eggs and dairy, but are also found in coconuts and nuts.
They’re not the killers they were once thought to be. The debate is a lengthy one and hard to explain but, I’ll try. It involves the fact that saturated fats actually fluff up your LDL particles, potentially making them safer. In an organic, coconut shell, here’s the deal with Sat-Fats:
- Cholesterol is a fat-like substance our bodies use in our cells and especially to make hormones. Cholesterol itself is fine and healthy and our bodies even make about 80% of it, we really only get about 20% from our diets anyway.
- However, cholesterol is moved around the body by a vessel called lipoproteins.
- It’s the high levels of lipoproteins that are associated with cardiovascular disease, but the relationship is not causal. Meaning high cholesterol doesn’t necessarily mean your heart’s not healthy.
- The type of cholesterol these lipoproteins carry around makes all the difference.
- High-density lipoprotein (or HDL) is the good kind and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad kind.
- BUT! This is the oversimplification. LDL particles can be different sizes. And It’s the small, dense LDL particles that get stuck in our arteries and cause problems. The larger, ‘fluffier’ particles do not pose the same risk.
- And guess what? Sat-Fats have been shown to make those LDL particles bigger and fluffier!
Plus, they still can’t really prove that LDL cholesterol is a good indicator of cardiovascular disease anyway. If you want to read more about it, read this gigantor article from Onnit (this is the article from which I just paraphrased). And don’t forget, the AHA is behind the most recent advisory against saturated fat (in the form of coconut oil) but, we can’t necessarily trust the AHA either. They take a lot of money from those Omega-6 producing vegetable oil companies.
Okay, so what was I saying? Oh yes, saturated fats and cholesterol = probably healthy. (It’s really the sugar that’s killing us). They can be found in:
- Animal foods (the healthier the animal, the healthier the fat)
- Dairy (full fat, high-quality, pasture-raised and grass fed)
- Eggs (from pasture-raised chickens)
- Coconuts and coconut oil
The bottom line is that goods fats are an important part of an optimal human diet. The demonizing of them has been a fatal error for thousands of us. It lead the way for low-fat, processed foods to become the norm, and for people to turn their backs on healthy, whole foods because of the fat content. If we want to be healthy, we have to understand what good fats are and eat accordingly.
Thoughts? Have you recently switched to a higher fat diet and seen huge improvements in your health? Are you a low-fat advocate and want to tell me a thing or two? Let’s discuss in the comments below.